If you have Medium Voltage (MV) or High Voltage (HV) electrical equipment that is ready to retire, you need to determine whether or not that equipment contains Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6) gas. Global warming is a concern for everyone, and greenhouse gases take center stage as villainous players. SF6, which is commonly found in various types of MV and HV equipment, has the dubious distinction of being the largest potential contributor to global warming: It has the highest Global Warming Power of the greenhouse gases and an atmospheric life span of 3,200 years.
But thanks to the closed-cycle disposal and reuse process of the electrical industry, it’s actually one of the least harmful technological solutions that exist today.
What is SF6?
In its pure state, SF6 is not a dangerous material, because it’s not an ozone-depleting substance, nor is it poisonous to human beings, plants or animals.
The electrical industry uses SF6 as an insulator and breaker medium within switches, circuit breakers, and other medium and high voltage (MV and HV) electrical transmission and distribution equipment. SF6 has definite advantages in terms of safety, ease of maintenance, and operational continuity, and it allows for compactness and use in harsh environments.
But here’s the catch: When electrical equipment reaches the end of its life, it contains solid and gaseous SF6 decomposition by-products as HF, SO2, SO2F2 and SOF2, which are toxic and corrosive hazardous waste.
As explained in my white paper, following the proper SF6 end-of-life procedure helps protect the environment and delivers a 98% recycling rate, making the substance available for reuse in electrical equipment.
- Process begins by auditing equipment and developing a disposal and recycling plan
- Electrical equipment owners select a trained and certified disposal/recycling partner
- Hazardous waste managers dismantle equipment and safely extract the SF6
- Recycling purification processes remove water, air, and the remaining toxic and corrosive by-products